Monday, August 31, 2009

Parmesan Custards with Roasted Vegetables

Lately I have been very sludgy-the sort of feeling that comes on from eating too much processed food. I know that cooking my own meals will result in my feeling healthier but I have been having trouble getting off my butt as things like ice cream are easy & immediate fixes. Well, that changes today (and may change back tomorrow, but hey, one day at a time).

So this recipe may not technically be healthy because of the cheese and cream, it is made with fresh produce and has lots of good 'ole fiber, vitamins and minerals. Plus it is delicious, so that basically means it is good for me, right?

The custard recipe for this dish is from Epicurious's Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Custards-a very delicious, creamy and delightful soup (provided you have access to fresh asparagus).

For Custards
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 whole large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of white pepper

1 recipe Slow Roasted Tomatoes
2 yellow crookneck squash
1 lb asparagus
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup basil, sliced into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To Make Custards:
Bring cheese, cream, and milk just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and steep, covered, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Prepare 1 recipe Slow Roasted Tomatoes while cheese-cream is steeping. Toss with sliced basil when done cooking.

Pour steeped cream through a very fine sieve into a bowl, pressing lightly on cheese solids and discarding them (Yeah I don't actually do this, Epicurious recommends it but I just whisk the mixture as it is getting hot/beginning to boil and never seem to end up with solids. And if I do, they are tasty solids). Whisk together whole egg, yolks, salt, and white pepper in another bowl, then add steeped cream in a stream, whisking until smooth. Divide among well-buttered ramekins.

Set ramekins in a baking pan and bake in a hot water bath in middle of oven until centers of custards are completely set, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer ramekins to a rack and cool 5 minutes (do not allow to cool longer, or custards will stick to ramekins).

While custards are cooking, prepare asparagus and squash.

Scrub outside of squash and rinse well to clean. Slice into long horizontal strips and toss with 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 clove minced garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Rinse asparagus and cut off tough ends. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt and asparagus. Let cook 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Toss with remaining pepper, garlic and olive oil.

When custards are removed to cool, turn oven to broil. Place squash in strips in large baking dish. Do same with asparagus spears.

Broil until vegetables are beginning to char, then remove.

Working with 1 custard at a time, run a thin knife around edge of each to loosen it, then invert a plate over ramekin and invert custard onto plate. Repeat with remaining custards.

Serve each custards in the middle of 3 stacks of roasted tomatoes, asparagus and crookneck squash.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On Work, Life and Cooking

The past 3 months I have worked as a waitress for a busy restaurant in an upscale area of Boston. I'd been working at the same hospital for 4 years and needed a break before starting grad school this September. My blog has suffered from lack of attention, my room looks a bit like a clothing tornado and paperwork earthquake have simultaneously struck it and my diet is, at best, erratic. Thus, it it with extreme relief (glee? exhaustion?) that my serving days are coming to an end.

To those who follow my blog, I apologize for my absence, but know that this fall I am in school full-time, not working at all (yippee!) and am excited to begin posting on a regular schedule.

The Alchemist Chef started when my boyfriend (tired of hearing about my going on and on about food, yet mysteriously never sick of eating my meals...hmm...) recommended my starting a blog. At first, it was just a place to record my favorite recipes, new twists on classics and to experiment with my cooking. Then, I discovered FoodBuzz and several grand meals were sponsored by their company as part of a regular blogging event. I won a recipe contest (along with 7 pounds of assorted pork sausages-I apologize to my roommates for monopolizing the freezer space) and international acclaim (at least in my own head!). And I slowly began to get to know other food bloggers, probably my favorite part of blogging. If you are looking for a supportive, creative community, foodies are the perfect audience.

So in the next few weeks, I aim to produce better photos, unique recipes and a story rather than simply a recipe. Working as a waitress has made me appreciate the purity of cooking and the experience of sharing meals with friends. A bonus, if my friends don't like my food, they don't have to eat it. When I ask them how they are, they don't answer by saying "water, we aren't ready, or get me (fill in the blank)." Restaurant workers have an insanely demanding job, both physically as well as emotionally from rude patrons and, at times, mean bosses. At the same time, I have met incredible people from around the world (both coworkers as well as customers) and virtual strangers who have offered me invaluable connections to the nursing world (I am getting my master's in nursing) which will hopefully help me gain employment and build a professional community. That kindness is memorable.

Happy eating,


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mango Mousse with Berry Sauce

Mango mousse is a cool and light dessert for summer.

1 packet unflavored Knox gelatin
2 cups chopped mango
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (peach juice would be a lovely substitution)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup light cream
2 cups raspberries
1-2 tablespoons Chambord (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar

To Make Mango Mousse:

Sprinkle gelatin over juice in small bowl and let soften 5 minutes.

Place bowl in small saucepan with water and heat on low until gelatin is completely dissolved.

While gelatin is heating, puree mangos and sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Add gelatin mixture to mangos and mix again until smooth and uniform. Pour into a large bowl (with enough room to add about 3 cups of whipped cream).

Beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold into mango mixture.

Place remaining 1 cup raspberries at bottom of mousse dishes so that the side of the berry with the hole faces up.

Spoon mousse mixture over raspberries
, cover and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours before serving.

To Make Fruit Sauce:

Puree 1 cup raspberries and pour into a fine sieve, pressing down with the back of a large spoon to extract liquid.

Mix in sugar and Chambord (if using), stir until sugar has dissolved.

To serve, decorate small dessert plates with raspberry sauce (in a spiral, lattice pattern, etc). Flip mousse dishes upside down so that mousse releases self onto dessert plate (you may need to run a knife lightly around it to loosen).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Empanadas de Choclo: Sweet Corn and Cheese Empanadas

These vegetarian empanadas are creamy, sweet and salty. They are ridiculously easy to prepare and make very satisfying snack or side dish.

Dough to make about 12 empanadas (homemade, or frozen-if frozen, remove from freezer before starting to cook)
1 cup creamed corn
1/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled (use feta if unavailable)
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix together creamed corn, cheeses, corn, spices and salt and pepper.

Roll out empanada dough and cut into small discs, about 3-4 inches in diameter. If using frozen discs, gently roll out a little to loosen the dough. Fill each disc with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling. Fold over to create a half-moon and use a fork to pinch dough shut. Repeat until all filling has been used.

Set filled shells onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Cook about 20 minutes or until empanada dough is starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool a little on cookie sheet.

Serve with salsa to kick it up a notch or add chicken and eat as an easy lunch.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lemon Trifle with Fresh Raspberries

18 ladyfingers
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup mascarpone
7 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

2 cups fresh raspberries

Whisk eggs and 1/2 lemon juice in small heavy sauce pan. Add zest, 1/2 cup sugar and butter. Stir occasionally until butter melts over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly as egg mixture starts to bubble. It should turn a creamy yellow at this point. Remove from heat and pour through sieve to catch any egg pieces that may have separated from curd mixture.

As curd is cooking, mix together 1/2 cup lemon juice, water and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves into liquid.

Beat mascarpone and whipping cream until stiff peaks form.

Pour 1/2 lemon curd over bottom of trifle dish.

Dip 9 ladyfingers into lemon syrup and place above curd.

Spread 1/2 mascarpone cream over ladyfingers.

Sprinkle 1 cup raspberries over cream and drizzle half of remaining curd over raspberries.

Dip remaining ladyfingers in lemon syrup and place above berries. Spread remaining cream over ladyfingers.

Drizzle remaining curd over trifle in a lattice pattern. Decorate with raspberries at points where the lemon curd intersects.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours before serving.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buffalo Shrimp with Blue Cheese Dip

While perusing Epicurious's new recipes, I came across a recipe for buffalo shrimp. Those who know me might have noticed my particular love for buffalo chicken fingers, blue cheese and a cold beer-with grilled shrimp, it is just a smidgen healthier for you! (Not healthy, but healthier...)

I've adapted this based upon ingredients available local grocery store (hello, Duluth, MN) and my lack of remembering to bring a grocery list.

1 lb de-veined, shelled shrimp (leave last part of shell on tail)
1/3 cup Frank's buffalo hot sauce

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Olive oil
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup sour cream (I always use full fat, because it tastes richer, but feel free to substitute lower fat or 1/2 plain yogurt and 1/2 sour cream)
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 chives, minced

Mix together blue cheese, sour cream, milk, lemon juice and chives. Add and pepper to taste.

Lightly salt and pepper shrimp and drizzle with olive oil.

Heat grill to medium-high heat (or use a George Foreman grill if it's raining, like I did).

Whisk together melted butter and buffalo sauce, pour into medium sized bowl.

Grill shrimp for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until pink and firm.

Toss shrimp in buffalo sauce.

Serve with blue cheese and your favorite vegetables.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cuban Sandwich

2 loaves Cuban bread (Ciabatta also would work as it has a wide and slightly flat shape)
1 lb good quality ham (a sweet cured ham, or one with a mild flavor)
1 lb lechon asado (Cuban roast pork)
1/2 lb Swiss cheese
Sliced dill pickles
Cuban mojo
Yellow mustard

To make 6 sandwiches:

Slice bread in half one time lengthwise and three times through its width (to have 6 pieces for each loaf). Butter inside of bread.

Layer mustard, pickles, ham, pork, mojo and cheese onto sandwich. Cover with top piece of bread.

Lightly oil and heat a large cast iron pan over medium to medium-high heat.

Place the sandwich on hot pan (you can probably cook 2 sandwiches at a time if your pan is large). Place a clean heavy skillet on top and push down to really flatten the bread.

Cook the sandwiches for 2-3 minutes on each side, making sure that the bread does not burn (turn heat down if bread is cooking to quickly) and cheese melts. Remove from heat and slice sandwich diagonally to serve.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dulce de Leche French Toast with Apples

4 large eggs
3/4 cup evaporated skim milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 thick slices bread (Challah is good)
2 tablespoons butter, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup dulce de leche
4 apples

Whisk together milk, eggs, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon sugar in large bowl.

Lay bread slices in a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.

Pour mixture over bread, cover and and refrigerate overnight.

To cook:

Heat butter in a large pan over medium high heat.

Preheat oven to 350° F. and bring bread to room temperature.

Slice apples thinly and toss with butter and remaining tablespoon sugar. Place above bread slices.

Bake bread and apples on middle oven rack, uncovered, until bread is puffy and golden, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Drizzle with dulce de leche and serve immediately.